Experiencing Head Dizziness When You Have An Eating Disorder? Here's Why

Sudden light-headedness can be a frightening experience for anyone, particularly if you are unsure of the cause. For many, experiencing occasional dizziness is no cause for concern. However, experiencing dizziness while you have an eating disorder can be an indicator of chronic dehydration and/or malnutrition. In addition to dizziness, it is not uncommon for people suffering from malnutrition to experience other symptoms, including fatigue, nausea and heart palpitations.

What Causes Dizziness?

Feelings of dizziness or light-headedness are caused by a low blood pressure condition called orthostatic hypotension. When a person feels dizzy, their blood pressure has typically dropped more than 20 mmHg in systolic blood pressure (systolic blood pressure refers to how much pressure is in your arteries when your heart contracts) or has dropped more than 10 mmHg in diastolic blood pressure (the pressure when your heart is relaxed following a contraction). It is completely normal to experience occasional dizzy spells, particularly if you stand up too quickly; however, if you have recurrent periods of light-headedness, there may be a deeper problem that needs addressing.

How Does an Eating Disorder Cause Dizziness?

Orthostatic hypotension is very common among people with eating disorders, especially people with anorexia or bulimia nervosa. While anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa do not directly cause dizziness, both of these eating disorders do increase the chance of dehydration.

As the name suggests, dehydration occurs when an individual does not consume enough liquid to maintain a healthy level of blood volume in the body. Without an adequate volume of fluids, there may not be enough pressure to keep blood pumping steadily through the body and consequently, through to the brain. In minor cases, this can result in dizzy spells, nausea, clamminess, sweating, blurred vision, and shaking.

Treatment of Orthostatic Hypotension in Eating Disorder Patients

If a person is suffering from dizziness due to mild dehydration, they can easily be treated by administering fluids orally or via a nasogastric tube. For best results, the rehydration process should also be augmented by supplementary electrolytes. When an individual is suffering from more serious dehydration, they may need to be administered fluids intravenously.

If a person’s dehydration is caused by an eating disorder, they will likely continue to experience dizzy spells until their eating habits improve or they seek treatment for the underlying problem. If you think that your eating or exercise habits are leading to dehydration, please reach out to a doctor or dietary therapist.

Sources: Science of Eating Disorders, Walden Eating Disorders, Better Help

Photo: Pixabay

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